February 20, 2009

Tremble America, European Startups Are Waking Up

It smells like a revolution's perfume in the dating sector, and maybe in the whole European internet industry. Meetic has acquired the European business of Match.com, an American internet major player while many people thought it would be the opposite.

For the first time, we can be proud in the internet startup industry: you can be in Europa and create a world class online business. It's not an American privilege. Not anymore.

Like Loic Le Meur, I hope this great news should encourage entrepreneurship in Europa to be more trusting, more competitive and in the same time changing the way American reporters see the European startup scene. But change  takes time. On his blog, Loic Le Meur, is however confident about the future:

Marc Simoncini (Meetic's founder) gave a great speech at my conference LeWeb in 2008 but remained unnoticed by the American bloggers and journalists who were also present. In fact most of them have never heard of Meetic and Marc and they were not interested, well maybe now that a major American player gets acquired by a European they will pay attention, I think they should. Europe is not only made of two hour lunches. Let's not blame my american friends too much, they came to Paris and other European events, they cover the European startups more and more, it is all good, I am confident one day they will consider Meetic is as important as Match.com".

Here you see Marc at LeWeb:

In Europa, we have already a great list of successful startups like Netvibes, Skype, Yandex, Skyrock, Dailymotion but it's probably the first time that a French early stage company acquires the activities of an American competitor in Europe, proving that you don't need to start your company in San Francisco to become a major player.

But even though Meetic is making history, European internet startups still have a long way to go if they want to compete with Silicon Valley.

First of all, we have to fight against a persistent pessimistic background. I remember at LeWeb08, some entrepreneurs and bloggers were rather defeatist about the future for startups. We have without any doubt different conceptions of life and business.

Europe has a long tradition of social protection, doesn't seem to like risks but likes to take time just to enjoy life. Technological innovations are often met with skepticism and even cynicism. America still has the reputation of being fast, optimistic and ready to go for the "American dream".

In an interesting post on TechCrunch, Michael Arrington outlines his view on the European startup scene:

The joy of life is great, but all these two hour lunches over a bottle or two of great wine and general unwillingness to do whatever it takes to compete and win is the reason why all the big public Internet companies are U.S. based. And those European startups that do manage to break through cultural and tax hurdles and find success are quickly gobbled up by those U.S. companies. Skype (acquired by eBay) and MySQL (acquired by Sun) are recent examples.

I don't know if Michael Arrington is pretending that European entrepreneurship is lazy and slow-moving but now, with the acquisition of Meetic, we have a nice counter-example.

In the meantime, the Meetic share at the Paris stock exchange is up 12,72% at 15,51 euro.

Sarah Godard


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